Arnica: Herbal or Homeopathic? What is the Difference?


Much has been written about Arnica montana. The most recognizable homeopathic remedy in use, arnica is used to treat bruising and swelling from trauma or injury. It should be in every first-aid kit because its action is so immediate and effective. Because Arnica is so well–known, misinformation about its use is abundant. The foremost thing to differentiate is if you are using herbal arnica or homeopathic arnica. The difference is vast.

While many online resources note the toxicity and potential dangers of arnica, they are speaking about herbal preparations which have a much greater amount of the material substance. Homeopathically prepared arnica is a highly diluted substance. Even when this type of formula is used frequently, it poses no danger. Homeopathic arnica is made as pellets and sprays, herbal arnica is found usually as a tincture. Creams or other topical applications do not pose any danger.

Highly diluted, homeopathic arnica is not only effective, it is the safest way to address issues around bruising and swelling from injury or overuse. Second, the medicine made homeopathically from this mountain flower can be created in copious quantities from a single plant, making this holistic solution truly a green medicine.

The use of arnica is not isolated to emergencies and surgeries. Its use is well-documented from professional sports figures to endurance athletes. One of the biggest stumbling blocks when using homeopathy is the understanding of the potency scale. At health food stores where homeopathic remedies are most easily found, the potencies are typically available in potencies ranging from 6x, 12x, 6C. 12C, 30C, and sometimes 200C. What do these numbers mean and how does one understand what to purchase and use? What does it mean if the potency says 30CK or 200CK?

The X potencies and C potencies differ in the amount of dilutions. A higher dilution is a stronger medicine homeopathically. X means diluted 10 times so a 6X has been diluted 6x10, 60 times. In homeopathic terms this is not highly dilute. The X potencies have no real validity in terms of first aid. X potencies are most effective for use in cell salts. Most commonly seen is 6X. These are in the square white bottles manufactured by Hyland’s. C potencies are diluted 100 times so a 30C has been diluted 30x100, 3000 times. It sounds like a lot but this is still fairly low in classical homeopathy. The K in the CK remedies is simply the method used to create the remedy. The first letter, C, is what to look for.

For emergency purposes in regards to arnica, the most appropriate potencies to have on hand would be 30C and 200C. The higher the potency (200C is stronger than 30C because it is more dilute), the less frequently it will need to be taken. If an athlete who has just run a marathon or performed intense physical activity outside of their normal range, a potency of 12C could be the best application.

 The severity of the injury will always indicate how often the remedy should be taken. For an injury that is very painful and has the potential for severe bruising, the remedy may be taken every 15-30 for several hours in a 30C. If you have a 200C, taking the remedy every hour or so would be advised. As the symptoms subside and the patient feels better, take the remedy less often. Every two to four hours on the second day would be a good rule of thumb if self-prescribing.

Taking lower potency arnica after intense physical activity is the most effective use of arnica for the weekend warrior dealing with soreness and muscle fatigue. Several 12C pellets might be best used once after the activity and then once again the next morning and evening for a total of three doses.

Arnica creams and gels are usually preparations made from the less dilute form of the plant. These products are meant to be used topically and are generally used when the complaint is not severe. Homeopathic arnica taken orally as a pellet or spray is a deeper acting form of the substance.

Homeopathic remedies are completely safe for children and can be used without fear of side-effects. However, do not deny anyone medical care if injuries are severe. Use sound judgment when using homeopathy as a first aid application. The more often you use the remedy the more familiar you will get with how it is best used.